Sculptor denies assault

LYN HUMPHREYS
Last updated 05:00 29/08/2014

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Revelations of Taranaki's drug underworld that could provide good fodder for an episode of TV's Breaking Bad unfolded in the New Plymouth District Court yesterday.

Sculptor Reece Rongonui, 48, denies charges of aggravated burglary, wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm and unlawful possession of a firearm, a .22 "pen gun", on July 5 last year.

The charges follow an armed offenders callout which closed off the main highway north of New Plymouth during the evening rush hour.

Rongonui's alleged victim, Paul Corrigan, gave evidence in a judge-alone trial yesterday afternoon.

The unemployed Corrigan, who lived in Bell Block, told Crown prosecutor Justin Marinovich he looked on Rongonui as "my brother". Rongonui, who lived in Huntly, agreed to help him find out who had stolen his father's car and help get it back.

Corrigan denied he offered Rongonui money, though admitted that he and another man had stolen $10,000 from a Waitara drug dealer.

He said on the night of the assault his house had been broken into. He was asleep when Rongonui came through the door, yelling instructions at him.

"He was just going right off. He was angry, livid," he said.

Rongonui punched him twice and grabbed Corrigan's dumpy hammer (used by panelbeaters) off the floor. Rongonui had a pen gun, which Corrigan said he gave him, in one hand and the hammer in the other.

Corrigan said he felt "completely intimidated and defenceless". "He told me to get to my knees and did I want it in my face or the back of my head."

The first blow with the hammer struck him around his left eye when he was sitting on the bed trying to put his pants on. "It laid me back on the bed."

He recalled three more hammer blows, leaving his eye and face swollen and his nose bleeding.

Rongonui demanded he pay him $5000 in cash or $3000 plus his car.

Rongonui gave Corrigan 25 minutes to go to his father's home in Waitara to get the money and car.

Corrigan said an associate drove him to his father's while he was thinking he would get his father's automatic shotgun and return with it.

His father told him he no longer had the firearm. He and his father went to New Plymouth police station.

Under cross-examination from lawyer Julian Hannam, he was asked whether the people Corrigan took money from were potentially dangerous and involved in drugs.

"I can't comment," Corrigan said.

He agreed he was under pressure at the time because of things he had done to others. "I couldn't stand myself."

He was taking cannabis on a daily basis and "meth when I could get it".

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The trial continues today.

- Taranaki Daily News

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